Brussels, Belgium, March 10, 2006 -- Billions of euros of taxpayers' money are in danger of being used to fund controversial infrastructure projects in the new member states of the European Union, according to a new map launched today by CEE Bankwatch Network and Friends of the Earth Europe. The warning is issued as the EU gears up to pour EUR 157 billion in Structural and Cohesion Funds into its new member states and accession countries between 2007 and 2013.
The map, entitled "EU Funds in Central and Eastern Europe: Cohesion or Collision?", highlights 22 environmentally damaging, economically unjustified or socially controversial projects with a total cost of roughly six billion euros.  Several of them - ineptly routed, damaging and legally deficient motorway projects in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Bulgaria - have already been financed by the EU. But most of the projects in the new map are still in the planning phase. A lot of the damage can therefore still be prevented.
The 22 projects in Poland, Latvia, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Bulgaria, Slovakia and Romania include:
roads and motorways cutting through valuable protected areas, despite the availability of alternative routes
unnecessary waste incinerators promoted at the expense of cheaper recycling alternatives that would create sustainable jobs
economically unjustified dams and canals that would destroy unique natural sites or villages.
Accompanying the map are suggestions for making better use of the funds, especially in the transport, energy and waste management sectors. Speakers from Poland and the Czech Republic at today's Brussels press conference stressed that some of the planned projects are unnecessary, while better alternatives for the others do exist but have so far been ignored.
One absurd case in the Czech Republic involves a plan to relocate the train station in Brno outside the city centre. At a cost of EUR 845 million, this project would complicate the lives of tens of thousands of the city's commuters and faces strong public opposition. Modernisation of the railway junction in Brno is necessary and deserves EU support but it can be achieved by keeping the train station in its current convenient location.
Magda Stoczkiewicz , Policy Coordinator of CEE Bankwatch Network in Brussels, said: "The projects shown in this map are on a collision course with the EU's own policies and goals. They damage the environment, have socially adverse impacts, are economically unjustified or are legally deficient. This is not how EU taxpayers' money should be used. The European Commission must either reject the funding for such projects or demand major modifications."
Martin Konecny , EU Funds Project Coordinator at Friends of the Earth Europe, said: "Some of the projects we have identified are simply unnecessary, while better alternatives exist in all the other cases. The EU funds are an important instrument to support the poorer regions of Europe. But environmental assessment laws need to be enforced so that these six billion euros can be invested to secure a sustainable future for central and eastern Europe."
1. The new map is available for free reproduction at: http://www.bankwatch.org/billions
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